Blurb: Siri Bergman is a thirty-four-year-old psychologist who works in central Stockholm and lives alone in an isolated cottage out of the city. She has a troublesome secret in her past and has been trying to move on with her life. Terrified of the dark, she leaves all the lights on when she goes to bed—having a few glasses of wine each night to calm her nerves—but she can’t shake the feeling that someone is watching her through the blackened windows at night.
When the lifeless body of Sara Matteus—a young patient of Siri’s with a history of drug addiction and sexual abuse—is found floating in the water near the cottage, Siri can no longer deny that someone is out there, watching her and waiting. When her beloved cat goes missing and she receives a photo of herself from a stalker, it becomes clear that Siri is next. Luckily, she can rely on Markus, the young policeman investigating Sara’s death; Vijay, an old friend and psychology professor; and Aina, her best friend. Together, they set about profiling Siri’s aspiring murderer, hoping to catch him before he kills again.
But as their investigation unfolds, Siri’s past and present start to merge and disintegrate so that virtually everyone in her inner circle becomes a potential suspect. With the suspense building toward a dramatic conclusion as surprising as it is horrifying, Siri is forced to relive and reexamine her anguished past, and finally to achieve some kind of peace.
I’ve always enjoyed reading about characters who have it together professionally but are a mess in their personal lives, which I think is why I enjoy Nordic crime fiction so much; the brilliant detective whose life is a shambles is a stock character. This book is a little bit different: The primary character, Siri Bergman, is a behavioral psychologist who is in desperate need of a behavioral psychologist. She drinks too much, she’s afraid of the dark, and she’s doing her absolute best to avoid working through her grief and anger. When she starts to suspect that someone is watching her, even stalking her, at first nobody believes her; after all, she’s a basket case.
Siri’s own conflicts are mirrored in the book’s characters and setting. Her home is isolated, alone, outside the city where nights are fully dark. Her nightly ritual is to turn on every light in the house, even the stove light, before she goes to sleep. Yet she is fiercely resistant to the idea of moving into town, closer to friends and family. Her remote cottage works well with her forced aloofness toward the people in her life. Her patients—all of whom have control issues—play up her own need to maintain the illusory control that keeps her from facing the truth about her husband’s accidental death. Along with her patients, Siri must recognize that her self-destructive behavior is her way of protecting herself from the pain of life.
Still, Siri appears to be in control of her medical practice—at least as much as she can be, considering someone is sending anonymous letters to her patients warning them of her incompetence. Siri’s confusion and frustration are palpable, as is her sense of being completely overwhelmed by what is going on around her. Who can she trust? Who would want to hurt her? What has she done that has made somebody so very angry? While the setup is familiar, the presentation is unique. One of the authors is a psychologist, and it shows; there’s a level of insight into the characters—not just Siri, but her patients and colleagues as well—that gives this more depth than the usual thriller.
My rating: 4 stars